British helicopter crash: Five UK troops killed as Taliban claims responsibility for Afghanistan attack

Taliban claims to have hit the aircraft on the worst day for two years for UK forces in the country

Five British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan after a helicopter crashed near the Pakistan border, in what would be the UK's deadliest day for two years in the long-running war.

The Ministry of Defence launched an investigation into the incident in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar province, 30 miles from the border with Pakistan. It later confirmed that the personnel were British.

Ahmad Zia Durrani, a spokesman for the Kandahar police chief's office, said the helicopter was on a "training flight" and that it was unclear why it crashed.

The helicopter is understood to have been a Lynx Mk9, commonly used by Royal Marines to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions using sensors, cameras and recording equipment.

The crash comes as British troops hand over most operations to local security forces in the run-up to their departure from Afghanistan.

The Afghan conflict has cost the British military 453 lives since 2001, when the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, agreed to send troops to the complex, tribal-dominated country that sheltered Osama bin Laden following the 11 September attacks in America.

A Taliban spokesman claimed in a text message to journalists that the insurgents had shot down the helicopter.

"Today, the mujahedin hit the foreign forces' helicopter with a rocket, and 12 soldiers on board were killed," their spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi wrote.

However, the Taliban frequently exaggerate death tolls in their attacks and have falsely claimed responsibility for incidents before.

A fatal accident is also a possibility as helicopters in Afghanistan, used extensively to transport troops, are forced to navigate particularly difficult terrain and swirling gusts of sand.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends affected by this tragic event. Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] is still in the process of reviewing the circumstances to determine more facts."

An MoD spokesman said: "The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further until families have been notified."

The last major helicopter crash in Afghanistan took place in December last year. Seven Americans and four Afghans died after a Black Hawk helicopter went down in the southern province of Zabul.

In the hours after that crash, US officers suggested the crash was due to a mechanical failure, but also that the crew may have come under fire once the helicopter was on the ground. Officials later admitted that Taliban fighters had brought down the aircraft.

The deaths in Afghanistan take the 2014 death toll to 23 – far lower than in previous years. However, violence has been on the increase in recent weeks in the run-up to Saturday's election.

As British troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan after 13 years, the inquest into the long-running conflict has already begun.

Last week, a new study published by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) concluded the decision to escalate the UK's involvement and send thousands of troops to Helmand province in 2006 was a "strategic failure". It also pointed out that opium cultivation in Helmand is higher today than it was before the British arrived.

A captain in the Territorial Army recently resigned after a dispute with the Ministry of Defence over his book, which is critical of the conduct of the campaign in Helmand province.

The MoD commissioned the book from Dr Mike Martin, but took exception to parts of his account and threatened him with the Official Secrets Act, saying that his manuscript contained Wikileaks material and "other classified material".

Martin, a Pashtu speaker, spent six years in Helmand speaking to the local population and tribal leaders.

His central argument is that British and US policy-makers and military commanders suffered a "massive intelligence failure" and did not understand the nature of Helmand's tribal society, the Taliban, and the conflict they were engaged in.

Martin said Western leaders scoffed at the local population's basic demands for adequate water supplies and an aggressive attempt to stop poppy production without providing an alternative fuelled the conflict.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game